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Channel Islands Fox Listed as Endangered Species

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Date: March 4, 2004
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy applauded the federal listing of the Channel Islands fox as an endangered species today and welcomed the additional support and resources the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now bring to their efforts to restore this unique species.

The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy have worked closely for the past five years to save the island fox, whose populations on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands plummeted more than 95 percent between 1994 and 2000. Scientists trace the origins of the island fox's catastrophic decline to predation by golden eagles.

"The listing of the island fox as endangered supports our ultimate goal of saving the Channel Islands fox from extinction," said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau. "This listing recognizes the perilous status of the island fox, a unique canid species that occurs nowhere else in the world but on the Channel Islands."

"The timing to list the island fox as "endangered" couldn't be better," said Dr. Lotus Vermeer, Director of The Nature Conservancy's Santa Cruz Island Preserve. "Recovery of the island fox is the primary objective of our program to restore the natural communities of Santa Cruz Island."

Golden eagle predation has placed the fox on the brink of extinction on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands. During the 1990s, each island saw its fox population fall from an estimated 1,500 to 14 on Santa Rosa, 15 on San Miguel and fewer than 100 on Santa Cruz Island. Captive breeding programs established by the National Park Service in 1999 have boosted island fox populations to 38 on San Miguel Island and 54 on Santa Rosa Island. A joint captive breeding program established on Santa Cruz Island by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy (which owns 76 percent of the island) in 2002 has produced 15 pups. The 2004 breeding season is underway.

Pigs, introduced to the island in the mid 1800s, have played a pivotal role in the decline of island foxes by providing a year-round food source for golden eagles. In the 1990s, golden eagles from the mainland began to colonize the islands, and prey upon the island fox as well. To save the island fox and further restore the natural communities of Santa Cruz Island, the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy are engaged in an ambitious restoration effort that includes recovery of island foxes, eradicating feral pigs, restoring native vegetation, relocating golden eagles, and reintroducing bald eagles.

Did You Know?

Island night lizard                                     C. Drost

The only reptile found on Santa Barbara Island is the endemic and threatened island night lizard. These lizards can live up to 20 years or more, but once established in a territory generally remain within a 3-meter radius their entire life.